TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on Eric Bledsoe of the Suns, Isaiah Thomas of the Kings, the potential return of Kobe Bryant, Kyle Korver of the Hawks, Evan Turner of the Sixers and the Raptors current situation.
1. Eric Bledsoe (Suns): Love how he's playing. This guy competes; plain and simple. Love his defensive intensity and ability to disrupt your flow, averaging close to two steals per game. His efficiency (50 per cent) has been impressive considering he's a below average distance shooter but he can get in the lane and break you down off the bounce. Finishes at the rim: fearless. He's putting up major numbers (20.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg / close to seven assists per game) and was a wonderful pickup. The opportunity is there for him and he's taking advantage.
2. Isaiah Thomas (Kings): This little guy gets everything out of his game and then some. No back down and his quickness and change of speeds are tough to guard. Really improved. Averaging close to 18 ppg and close to five assists per game. Shoots it well from 3-point range at 43 per cent and is a major pest defensively. Always love to root for the underdogs and wasn't a high pick like teammate Jimmer Fredette yet he's got all of his minutes. It's not about your draft slot, it's always decided between the lines. Respect him.
3. Kobe Bryant (Lakers): Lots of chatter out of LA that he's ahead of schedule with his rehab from a torn achilles. I'm a huge fan and he's one of the greats of this era. Won't find a nastier guy when the game is on the line. Want him on my side. Fingers crossed that he doesn't rush it back. The man's got incredible will and drive but I hope that he takes it easy and makes sure he's being very cautious before he steps out there on the court. His pride will get the best of him once he's in the games so make sure you can demand lots of yourself and perform at a relatively high level before you subject yourself to the scrutiny. Look forward to seeing him (Raptors are in LA on Dec 8) yet for the sake of his health and the game, I want to see him when he's truly ready.
4. Kyle Korver (Hawks): I watch this guy and he's the model of efficiency and has outstanding feel for what exactly his role is. The man shoots it (54 per cent and 51 per cent from long distance) and gets you 13 ppg which is very respectable. Really good at moving without the ball and cuts hard and is masterful at his screen usage. Excellent catch and shoot game and can create with a bounce or two. Spaces the floor out and opens major driving lanes for teammates like Jeff Teague which makes everyone better. Each place he has played (Philadelphia, Utah and Chicago), his coaches and teammates respect his professionalism and value of team play. It's no surprise that he stays at a good level, he knows exactly what's expected of him and he delivers on it.
5. Evan Turner (Sixers): Having a terrific start to the season (22 ppg and 6.3 rpg/47 per cent shooting) after being considered a disappointment early in his career. Very strong guy who's one of the best rebounding guards in the league. Explosive at the point of attack and gets to the rim and finishes with authority. Seems to be more relaxed and having fun playing for new coach Brett Brown. Some guys just take longer and more importantly style of play many times sets the tone for a career path. The Sixers go up and down and play fast and this better suits his game. In open space and quick rapid fire action/reaction situations, he thrives.
6 Toronto Raptors: I know, I know, I must have had a little something extra in my cup of tea this morning but hey what the heck! The Raps are playing for top spot in the Atlantic Division Wednesday at Philly. Who'd have thunk it? Lets get the W and no Looking back. Atlantic Division Champs - Playoffs - Home Court: Dare to dream a little bit. Wouldn't that be fun? I know the folks in Tank Nation think I'm nuts and I'm yanking some chains here but let's enjoy the ride and see how it all shakes out. Remember the wacky 2006-07 season? None of us saw it coming with the Raps winning the division. I doubt it will happen but let's have some fun for a change and value winning. Minds off the ping-pong balls and let's be a firtst-place team for a few days. Onward and upward. I know, I'm losing it!